As people move in and out of Kigali and social groups change, they are inclined to meet some friendly new faces and what better way than over some fun activities.
For this reason, Kigali Board game Meetup has, for more than three years, been bringing together locals and expats with shared interests for fun activities.
This kind of meetup has been the first of its kind in Kigali, where participating players bring any board game of their choice, and meet at Quiet Haven Hotel, in Nyarutarama to share their skills and play together.
The event engages participants using games as an educational tool to provide opportunities for deeper learning, and create a community of practice.
Young people play video games. Courtesy photos.
How it all started
For decades, Board Game Meetups have been popular in western countries, but introducing it in Kigali was a whole new concept.
The idea came about when the manager of the hotel, Christopher Taganda, was looking to introduce new fun activities at the hotel that would attract people but at the same time represent the hotel’s brand.
“I wanted to introduce new fun activities that are different from other hotels yet at the same time do not require too much noise or buzz, something that would represent our name, Quiet Haven,” he says.
That is how his best friend, introduced the new concept to him.
The inspiration behind it is that I really like socialising with people and having fun so the only thing that I thought about was how people can get to play and hold conversations at the same time. The idea was for people to bring games we haven’t seen in Kigali so they teach us their games and we teach them what we have, Janvier Ntwara, the brains behind the Meetup, explains.
“I wanted something that one cannot find anywhere else in Kigali that can attract people who are looking for a place to have fun and network in a quiet place, he adds, “so he introduced the idea, we sat down and developed it and with the help of social media, we spread the word.”
Participants interact as they share eats and drinks
In the beginning, the Meetup attracted more than 10 people, which to them was a good start, although majority were expats who fell in love with the idea as well as the whole setting and proposed that it is organised every month.
“Rwandans, however were a bit skeptical about it as they did not understand the concept but eventually more Rwandans embraced the idea, mostly because of the networking,” Gilbert Shingiro, one of the organisers of the event says.
With a combination of different indoor games, from playing cards, the traditional Igisoro, chess, darts, to draughts, the event has gone on attract more participants to join, with the number rising up to 50 people and above.
According to the coordinators, while some of them that turn up may not be conversant with the games, it is an open opportunity to learn, as well as networking.
Right now the event has fully changed because the locals have now outnumbered the expats, even though their main aim is the networking.
“These board games are good for businesspersons because when you are playing, there is interaction going on, discussing about business while also enjoying the game. It also reduces stress because your brain is at work and you are focusing on winning.”
The youth being the dominant group, between the ages of 20 – 30, similar faces have been showing up every month which, according to the organisers is a good sign that they are having fun.
“We are hoping to reach a target where we can have over 100 people play for like four hours and make it every month, and make it a family thing where we can involve kids as well, because why have all that fun for the adults alone?,” Shingiro says.
Young people learning new games at the event.
The Meetup didn’t happen last month, and the next event will take place a few weeks from now, March 9, to be precise, as organisers and the hotel owners had to halt the games in April last year, as they had to make some renovations to cater for a bigger audience.
“We see a big difference from when we started until now and we hope to make them more professional, with competitions and awards.
We did the renovations to increase space for the venue. Participants just need to bring any of the board games that they have, because we have been playing games since we were kids. On March 9, we are expecting more people to turn up because the more people we have, the more challenges and more fun, Taganda says.
There are lots of games to enjoy.
Some of our participants, Shingiro says, requested that they bring their own PlayStation, and video games.
“We are also looking for ways of working with community chess clubs who can use the venue as well and they will be able to teach people how to play chess and organise some competitions,” he adds.
Participants share their experience
I love games, board games and I enjoy meeting new people, plus quiet haven is a nice spot, so during board games I enjoy having fun with friends and new people we just met.
It is a nice experience and worth my time. This Meetup has brought something some of us only used to see in movies.
It also brings back the child in of us, some kind of fun we missed, the kind of fun we had when we were kids, something you don’t experience every day like the Igisoro, cards and many others that bring back some old wonderful memories.
It’s a chance to meet people and play different games. The Board game is another entertaining activity for Rwandans since they meet in order to play, eat, drink and dance.
Someone can even invest in this kind of entertainment to make their hotel or any other venue more attractive to visitors.The first time I attended, I just wanted to check it out and see what they do.
I liked it and learnt to play many games. With this experience, I can now manage to host a group of people at my house for fun without consuming a lot of money or making them feel weary and impatient because they don’t know each other. It Is easy talk to anyone while you play, even if it’s your first encounter.
Peter Cross Kayigire
The board games offer something different in terms of entertainment in Kigali. First, it’s an outdoors and a day event- there is not many options for people to be outside on a Saturday in Kigali. If it’s not just lunching with friends or swimming with the family, you are sleeping, and so the monthly board games is a great activity to keep your mind active and alert.
Secondly, it’s social as you get an opportunity to meet new friends at the same time interacting and being informed of the different games out there and simply learning from each other and game strategies. It’s also a learning experience- playing games as A young person or old gives you a sense of excitement.
It’s in our nature to compete and competition offers you self-development and understanding of the world around you and the people you interact with.
I joined the first board game in 2017 with a friend after we saw it advertised on Facebook. I love games and any opportunity to play I will take and that’s what I did. I only had cards going into the games as I was not sure what to expect but so many others brought some interesting board games which I welcomed.
I have since attended a several others and my experience has been fruitful and engaging. I’ve met some amazing friends and we’ve gone as far as having a WhatsApp group so we can meet as more regularly possible to play our favorite games of choice.